Latest: How cities around the world are lifting coronavirus restrictions

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 1 June 2020 14:15 GMT

FILE PHOTO: Customers enjoy the terrace of the restaurant Maison sauvage in Paris after restaurants and cafes reopened following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

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Many cities are easing coronavirus lockdowns - but doing so is a tricky balancing act. Here's what different cities are doing.

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By Emma Batha

LONDON, June 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From Rome reopening cafes to London allowing picnics in the park, many cities are easing lockdowns, but governments have a tricky balancing act.

Lifting restrictions too fast could lead to a new spike in infections overwhelming health services, but prolonging lockdowns could fuel unemployment, harm children's education and exacerbate domestic abuse and mental health issues.

A growing number of cities are turning streets over to pedestrians and cyclists to reduce crowding and ease pollution, which appears to aggravate the impact of the virus.

In the longer term, urban planning experts say the pandemic could lead to more fundamental changes to cities as they aim to become more resilient to future outbreaks.

Here is a round-up of what different cities are doing. This story is regularly updated.

INDIA

India has extended lockdown until June 30 in places reporting a high number of infections, including hundreds of areas in the capital New Delhi and Mumbai, among them Dharavi - one of Asia's largest slums.

Testing is being ramped up in Delhi where there are predictions the number of infections will exceed half a million by the end of July. 

The federal government is providing Delhi with 500 train carriages to accommodate coronavirus patients amid a shortage of hospital beds.

The southern state of Tamil Nadu, which has also seen a rise in cases, will reimpose a strict lockdown from June 19-30 in four districts, including the capital Chennai.

Restrictions have generally been eased across the country in recent weeks with most businesses allowed to open, but schools and cinemas remain closed.

Restaurants, shopping malls and religious buildings were permitted to reopen with strict rules in place as of June 8, but some states, including Maharashtra where Mumbai is located, are keeping places of worship closed. 

Buses in Delhi can only carry 20 passengers at a time and thermal temperatures are taken before they board. Cars, including taxis, can only carry two passengers.

The lockdown, introduced on March 25, has sparked a crisis for millions of urban migrants who depend on daily wages. With no work, many have made long journeys to their home villages.

Health experts fear the exodus is spreading the virus to more areas of the country. 

Meanwhile, a village in Kerala state has distributed umbrellas to enforce social distancing, according to Indian media. The local council says if everyone walks around with an open umbrella it will keep people at least a metre apart.

CHINA

Parts of Beijing have installed checkpoints and closed schools and sports venues this week after a sudden spike of cases linked to Asia's biggest wholesale food market.

Beijing had designated 22 neighbourhoods as medium-risk areas.

Tens of thousands of residents are undergoing tests and temperature checks are being reinstated in many places.

Residents have been advised to avoid crowds and gathering in groups for meals.

Fences have gone up around some parts of Beijing including the city's old-style hutong neighbourhoods.

Many other parts of China have imposed quarantine requirements on visitors from Beijing.

BRITAIN

People in England who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to their jobs, but have been told to avoid using public transport if possible.

In London, transport bosses have warned that trains will only be able to safely carry 13-15% of normal passenger numbers.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a plan to create more space for walking and cycling to support social distancing and ease pressure on public transport. 

In England, up to six people can meet outside if they maintain social distancing. Adults living alone and single parents can spend the night at another household.

Shops reopened on June 15 with social distancing measures in place, but pubs and restaurants will not open until July at the earliest. Gyms, swimming pools, playgrounds, hairdressers and cinemas also remain closed. Face coverings are now compulsory on public transport.

Some children have begun returning to school, but most will not go back until later in the year.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have different rules.

The government has voiced concern that Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place in cities across the country could risk spreading coronavirus.

UNITED STATES

All 50 states have relaxed coronavirus restrictions to some degree, although the daily number of cases continues to rise in 22 states. In some states, like Illinois and New York, restaurants are still closed except for take-aways and hair salons remain shuttered. In many southern states, most businesses have reopened, with restrictions on capacity.

As the summer approaches, social media is beginning to fill with images of residents violating social distancing rules. Officials in New York City and Houston warned of reinstating lockdowns in response.  

Cities including New York City and Washington are closing roads and extending bike lanes to give people more space to walk, jog and cycle. Oakland in California is turning over about 10% of its streets to pedestrians and cyclists.

In California, retailers and places of worship can reopen, but some larger cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have yet to approve re-openings. Beaches in Los Angeles have reopened, but residents must wear masks when not in the water.

Washington DC lifted its stay-at-home order on May 29 and began a phased reopening. Social distancing rules remain and gatherings of more than 10 are not allowed.

Some officials fear that the eruption of large Black Lives Matter protests in cities across the country following the death of George Floyd in police custody could lead to a rise in coronavirus cases.

FRANCE

Shops and factories reopened on May 11, along with some schools operating with reduced class sizes.

In Paris, parks, green spaces and walkways along the Seine have reopened. The city has reserved some streets for pedestrians and bicycles.

Masks are compulsory on public transport and stickers on seats mark out social distancing. Passengers who do not comply face a 135 euro ($150) fine. 

Bus stops and metro stations have been equipped with hand gel dispensers.

Officials want to cut daily passenger numbers to 1.5-2 million, down from 5 million pre-lockdown. Employees who cannot work from home have to work shifts and travel at off-peak hours on authorised time slots.

In the long term, Mayor Anne Hidalgo is aiming for the "quarter-hour city", where most daily needs are within a short walk, bike ride or public transport commute, to reduce congestion and pollution, and improve quality of life.

France reopened its EU borders this week and will welcome other visitors from July 1.

SPAIN

After imposing one of the world's strictest lockdowns in mid-March, Spain has begun a four-phase plan to reopen the country by the end of June.

Madrid and Barcelona have allowed parks, museums, churches and both indoor and outdoor seating at bars to reopen at reduced capacity. Lower risk areas have already eased restrictions.

Masks are compulsory on public transport and in public spaces where people cannot remain 2 metres apart.

The country, which is heavily reliant on tourism, will reopen to international tourism from July 1, but is allowing German holidaymakers to visit the Balearics from this week under a pilot scheme.

Barcelona has announced a 4.4 million euro ($4.8 million) plan to reduce traffic, including the creation of an extra 21 km (13 miles) of bike lanes, 12 km of pedestrianized streets and improvements to the bus network.

ITALY

Italy lifted restrictions on travel between regions on June 3, allowing people to visit family and friends elsewhere in the country for the first time in months

The country, which is very dependent on tourism, has also reopened its borders.

Italy started easing restrictions on May 4 when factories and building sites were allowed to reopen. Shops, restaurants, cafes and hair salons reopened mid May. 

However, schools will remain shut until September, leaving families facing childcare problems.

Local media has reported that cinemas and theatres are allowed to re-open this week, amateur contact sports will be permitted from June 25th and nightclubs from mid-July.

Numbers visiting cinemas or museums at a given time are restricted to 200.

Social distancing measures and bans on large gatherings remain in force. Face masks are compulsory when distancing is not possible.

Milan has announced an ambitious scheme to turn streets over to cycling and walking.

GERMANY

Masks are compulsory when shopping or using public transport.

All shops in the capital Berlin have reopened, but they cannot have seating areas that could encourage customers to linger.

Staff at hairdressers must wear protective gear and space out customers.

As of June 2, restaurant and bar owners must take down customers' contact details which can be requested by health authorities if there are infections. Details will be deleted after four weeks.

Restrictions on the numbers allowed to attend church were lifted this week.

In Frankfurt, swimming pools and saunas were allowed to reopen this week, but people must keep to social distancing rules, including in the pool.

Contact sports and competitions resumed last week.

THE NETHERLANDS

Restaurants, cafes, cinemas, theatres and concert halls have reopened for up to 30 customers who have to pre-book. This will be increased to 100 from July 1. Gyms will reopen the same day.

Primary schools, which opened in May with split classes, are now operating as normal. High schools and higher education institutions reopened for exams and some lessons this week.

Masks are mandatory on public transport.

In Amsterdam, traffic lights are being reconfigured at more than 30 locations to keep cyclists moving and prevent congestion at lights. 

Heat cameras have also been installed at two locations to determine how many cyclists are waiting. Traffic lights will turn green faster if the number is deemed too high.

Sex clubs will reopen from Sept 1.

BELGIUM

Belgium allowed almost all businesses to reopen on June 8, including bars and restaurants, but waiters wear masks and social distancing measures are in force.

Religious ceremonies have also resumed with up to 100 worshippers allowed.

The country reopened its borders to EU states on June 15.

Cinemas and other cultural spaces can open with a maximum of 200 people from July 1.

Large gatherings will remain banned until Aug. 31. Nightclubs also cannot open.

In Antwerp, port workers have been testing wristbands developed by a Belgian technology company that could help with social distancing requirements by giving a warning signal if people get too close. 

SINGAPORE

Singapore will allow small gatherings and the reopening of restaurants and shops from June 19, in a major easing of the city-state's restrictions.

Social gatherings of up to five people will be permitted.

Singapore reopened schools and some businesses earlier this month.

Malls, gyms, parks and beaches are set to reopen, but bars and theatres will remain shut.

The government has said people should continue to work from home where feasible.

Mask wearing is obligatory and public transport has been marked with stickers to show where people can stand and to block off some seats.

Authorities have announced a S$30 million ($21 million) grant to ramp up local production of eggs, vegetables and fish in the city, which imports 90% of its food.

In the longer term, Singapore is pushing urban farming - including rooftop farming - with an aim to produce 30% of the food it needs by 2030.

TOKYO

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lifted the state of emergency in the capital.

Unlike strict lockdowns in other countries, Japan did not force businesses to close and some had reopened even before the emergency was lifted.

But many companies have said they will let staff keep working from home.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said everyone has to get used to a "new normal" of teleworking and staggered commutes until a vaccine or treatment is developed.

Railway operator Odakyu has said it will release usage data to help passengers avoid crowded trains.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa eased restrictions on June 1, allowing people to go out to exercise at any time and lifting an 8pm to 6am curfew.

People can now return to work if their sector permits. All retail businesses can open, all public transport may operate and limited domestic air travel is allowed for work purposes.

A ban on alcohol has also been lifted. But restaurants, cinemas, theatres, hotels and gyms remain closed. Public gatherings, events and conferences are also not permitted.

AUSTRALIA

Different states are opening up at different rates.

Victoria state, home to Melbourne, allowed cafes, restaurants and bars to reopen on June 1, the last state to do so.

The government is encouraging people to download its CovidSafe contact-tracing app.

Restaurants and other businesses in Melbourne have to take customers' first names and phone numbers to help with contact tracing, if necessary, according to the Guardian newspaper.

In Sydney and across New South Wales state, schools, playgrounds and swimming pools are opening again. Sydney's Bondi Beach and two neighbouring beaches reopened on April 28.

Australians can now make home visits and meet in groups outdoors, but states have different rules on the number allowed to gather.

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has lifting all social and economic restrictions except border controls.

The country, which imposed one of the world's strictest lockdowns, released a contact-tracing app on May 20.

People arriving from abroad have to quarantine for 14 days to avoid reintroducing the disease.

COLOMBIA

Bogota has added more than 100km of temporary bike lanes to its already extensive network, closing some roads to do so.

The initiative announced just before the March 20 lockdown was aimed at easing crowding on buses to curb the spread of the virus.

Colombia opened its construction and manufacturing sectors on May 11.

Some of the country has further eased restrictions but Bogota and the cities of Cali and Cartagena, which have been hit hard by the pandemic, are keeping tighter measures in place.

MEXICO

Mexico has yet to pass the peak of the pandemic.

In Mexico City, restrictions are slowly beginning to ease this week, ending temporary limits on which cars can drive each day. Shops, restaurants, religious services and hotels will be allowed to open at 30-50% capacity within two weeks.

In the industrial capital Monterrey, the mayor allowed restaurants and some other industries to reopen weeks ago against the advice of the state and federal governments.

BRAZIL

Rio de Janeiro's mayor has announced a plan to reopen the city's economy in six phases with each phase set 15 days apart.

The first phase began on June 2, with car dealerships and furniture stores allowed to open. Some sports activities and religious ceremonies including funerals are also permitted.

Shopping centres will reopen in phase two with parking capacity reduced by two thirds. Street stores will reopen in phase three.

JORDAN

Almost all businesses have been allowed to reopen since the authorities relaxed a tough 40-day curfew in May.

Mosques and churches have also reopened.

Nurseries are gradually reopening but only at 50% capacity, however schools remain shut.

Domestic tourism is now open with the government encouraging locals to take holidays at home.


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(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
((emma.batha@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 6237 ;))